Brown University launches milestone executive cybersecurity program
Master's degree curriculum bridges disciplines to train experienced leaders
By Gary Stoller, ThirdCertainty
Aiming to develop cybersecurity leaders, Brown University will launch a master’s degree program for cyber professionals in the fall of 2016.
The 16-month degree program at the prestigious Ivy League university in Providence, Rhode Island, joins a rapidly increasing number of colleges with undergraduate or graduate cybersecurity degree programs. The University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon and George Mason University are among colleges already offering such master’s degrees.
Brown’s “executive master” program will be the first to focus on cyber leadership of law, policy, technology and human factors, says Alan Usas, director of the program that expects 25 to 30 initial students. There’s “a rising demand for visionary cybersecurity leadership in private sector, government and other organizations.”
Before establishing its program, Brown’s market studies showed “a significant unmet need for people who can bridge the disciplines important in developing and implementing cyber strategies, working across business functions and with outside parties to tackle the challenges,” Usas says. “These leaders will bring knowledge of technology, law and policy to work with executives, board members, regulators, vendors and others to make real our claim that ‘strategy is the best security.’”
No newbies need apply
Brown’s program, which costs $97,500, is not for cybersecurity beginners or undergraduates without cybersecurity experience. The university wants master’s degree candidates with five to 15 years of experience, according to Usas, who was named program director in February.
“We’re looking for people who are committed, have experience they can bring into the classroom and are looking for a credential like a master’s degree to take them to the next level,” he says.
Brown saw “a large need for cybersecurity professionals of all kinds,” Usas explains. “But, as we got deeper behind the data and talked to some corporate leaders, what we heard over and over again was a need for management talent—not just pure technical talent, but people who would come in with a broad set of skills that would prevent the kind of silo approaches to cybersecurity strategies that, unfortunately, have led to a lot of disasters.”
The 16-month program entails four weeks on the Brown campus in Providence, one week in the San Francisco area, and the remainder online “with a lot of interaction between students and faculty,” Usas says.
The Bay Area week is primarily designed “as an experiential learning time when students will meet with corporate and other organization leadership to get a closer look at the challenges they face and to engage in discussions that apply their learning to date,” he says. The online segment enables cyber professionals to maintain a job while working toward their degree.
Brown’s program, Usas says, is in line with President Obama’s executive order last year to promote sharing of private-sector cybersecurity Information.
“One of our goals is to recruit and admit a diverse student body,” because the student-to-student learning component is vital,” he says. “By admitting a cohort of people from diverse industries and skill sets, we’re going to have a student body that will be exciting, and it will be challenging to be a part of that learning environment.”
Prospective cybersecurity master’s candidates also may be excited about a degree program that the University of Denver recently added.
The college said its 12-month, on-campus master’s program is so important in tackling a cybersecurity worker shortage that all students accepted will receive a scholarship cutting tuition in half. Based on tuition costs for the 2015–16 school year, a student receiving a scholarship would pay about $29,000 for the year-long program.
The program’s aim, according to the university, is to give graduates “the technical foundation they need to have an accelerated career in the fastest-growing industry in the nation.”
Besides its master’s degree in cybersecurity, the university also offers a master’s program in information systems security.
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